Back in 1958, Bob Holness was a jobbing actor working for the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation. “A producer got us together and said he was working on a radio adaptation of a book called Moonraker,” Holness recalls. “Nobody had heard of it, or of James Bond. So the producer explained that he was a spy. There were blank looks all round. Then he said, ‘Bob, do you want to play this chap?’”
Fleming’s sadistic prose did have to be tuned down for radio, but there was still the odd racey moment. “I remember that in one saucy bit I was stuck up a steampipe with the femme,” says Holness. “That’s the only time I’ve ever been in a situation like that. At least it was only on the radio.”
Sadly, no copies of the play survive but Bob swears it was a huge success and the SABC wanted to do another Bond adaptation. “But the producer called us all in and said, ‘I’ve got some bad news. The publishers have put an embargo down. They’re going to try for film adaptations instead of radio.’”
“I was never in the frame for it when they cast the films. It’s a great pity,” says Holness. “I’d have had a go at Bond in those days. I’m too old now."